WALTER SCOTT (1985) is an artist from Kahnawake who currently lives and works in Vancouver. During a period in Montreal he began work on the Wendy comics, an ongoing “adventure about a young woman living in an urban centre, whose dreams of contemporary art stardom are perpetually derailed by the temptations of punk music, drugs, alcohol, parties, and boys.” The comic has been serialized as a “Scene Report” for Hazlitt, and Koyama Press will publish an anthology next year. Alongside this work, Walter has maintained a practice that involves printmaking and sculpture. A series of this latter work was recently shown at Macauley and Co. Fine Art in Vancouver. You can find him at his website and on Tumblr.
B O D Y art editor Graeme Langdon recently caught up with Scott to explore the concerns that exist across his variegated practice.
O D Y: The conceit of the Wendy comics is that her distracting preoccupation with certain trivial and frivolous things is what allows us to appreciate her depth and root for the character. Is this something that characterizes her generation for you? Are we more human in our failures and foiled aspirations than our achievements?
Walter Scott: I feel like failure is a learning experience, and learning to reflect is what makes people human, what life is about, so, yeah I guess so. Also, not everyone triumphs over their fuck-ups, but everyone fucks up.
B O D Y: When asked about your relationship to the Wendy character you tend to answer that she is a semi-autobiographical avatar for you to reflect on and explore personal experiences and their possible – but unrealized – trajectories. In this sense, she’s a projection, but she is a projection characterized by her dreams of overcoming the failings that tend to derail her. In this sense, do you think you might be an avatar of Wendy – a projection of her possibilities?
Walter: I feel like I’m kind of the alternate universe Wendy sometimes. Like, I’m living a parallel life to her, and sometime my experiences leak into her universe. I am a projection of her possibilities in the sense that I’m often making a lot of decisions that she struggles with, and depending on the outcome in my life, her narrative changes. So I guess we are growing and learning together.
B O D Y: Wendy dreams of contemporary art stardom, but the majority of her cultural engagement – except for her residency in the second volume – takes the form of criticism, arts journalism, and curatorial work. How do you view the relationship between art-making and this other work? Is Wendy enabled or disenabled by this tension?
Walter: I actually try to keep the crux of Wendy’s work really ambiguous. I like the idea of her shape-shifting practice – one day she’s a writer, the next she’s a sculpture artist. Her practice is hard to pin down, so it keeps the focus on the personal. It also opens up a chance to create narratives and make connections between different practices, like, painters who think they don’t have anything in common with video artists. More generally, and especially since moving to Vancouver, I see people from a lot of different mediums who feel this pressure of creating work with an undercurrent of academia, or at least, work that can be framed in that context. And so, Wendy constantly having these methodological conversations with herself, her medium could still be anything.
B O D Y: For Wendy, punk music is a derailing distraction, but your engagement with the scene has been more creative. You have produced countless show posters and previously drummed with the band Dead Wife. How would you characterize your relationship to punk music? Does it inform your art in ways other than those immediately apparent in the Wendy comics?
Walter: There’s a kind of marginalization in DIY music that is propulsive. Coming from a Mohawk community, I am interested in the ways that people create possibility in the fringes, or in spite of institutions. The whole status of Otherness, I felt it in the punk scene too in Montreal. Except maybe for when things get a little to hardcore and jocky, then I’m like “oh ok this is a boys tree house.” But in general, native identity, punk music, queerness – I relate to all of these things, and I always like to think of the outsider perspective, especially in relation to the art world. Is it a political act to be an outsider on the inside? What does that duality look like? Does it even exist?
B O D Y: Personally speaking, I am used to encountering your work in contexts other than galleries. I’ve seen show posters on street poles, I’ve seen poster board cut-outs in cafes, and I’ve flipped through Wendy at zine fairs; but you also present these concise and meticulous sculptural pieces in more shipshape galleries. I consider it my loss to have missed the latter, but I wonder how you feel about working across the two.
Walter: For a lot of reasons, Montreal’s underground scene thrives a lot more and is a lot more engaging and experimental than, say, the gallery scene. I was never interested in any galleries shows I saw in Montreal really, except for maybe something that managed to get into the MAC. It might also just be because I was a brat and mostly just wanted to party. But for me, the place where stuff is happening is people’s pop-up galleries running out of their apartments, or music shows in basements and illegal venues. I guess I was participating in these out of love, but also out of necessity – they were communities available to me. I didn’t understand that my work could possibly translate in more legit institutions until I started to show in Toronto and the States. So, until then, I just did the best with what I had, which I think is what everyone is doing. I was never against legitimization, but now that I’m engaging with bigger institutions, I feel like my deeply rooted experience in an underground scene has made me interested and aware of the differences between the two.
B O D Y: You have suggested that your work is united by an interest in mobility, and transgression. Could you speak to how these interests work across your projects?
Walter: Wendy is kind of a drag character for me. All of the characters are actually just different parts of me. They are kind of different masks that I wear, haha. And then different parts of me come through. I guess you can say it’s a kind of like disassociate personality disorder, but it’s an art practice. Haha.
B O D Y: So, what can you tell me about your recent sculptural work, which was recently shown at Vancouver’s Macaulay & Co. Fine Art? What were your aims with this work?
Walter: These new sculptures position themselves as an alternative way to create various open-ended narratives. Through the physical form and materials, certain aspects of fiction, otherwise unreadable, make themselves known. By that, I mean the hair and the pleather, etc. kind of point to the queer/drag undercurrents in my creating Wendy in the first place. They are new points in which to connect and make a larger constellation that attempts to consolidate my practice.
B O D Y: With its use of camouflage and bright orange, your sculptural work seems to exploit an interesting self-contradiction that characterizes hunting apparel: the hunter simultaneously needs to be visible to fellow hunters, and invisible to the animal he or she is hunting. Can you tell me about your use of these materials?
Walter: I try to be really opaque about my use of camouflage now; I don’t really like to talk about it. It can mean a lot of things. People have approached me about the camo with different readings, about class, allocation of resources, complex narratives, institutional critique, all of that. And I guess my not talking about it is a part of it existing now. I’ve given people a hard read of why I used it in the first place, and it mostly alienates people. I feel like I’m just gonna sit back and let the camouflage do the work it wants to do, rather than me force a reading onto it. I think that’s what it wanted to do the whole time.
–interview by Graeme Langdon
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